Pressing plant expansion = vinyl off life support?


records on shelves pressing

It’s been a matter of hours since we’ve mentioned vinyl records on DJWORX and it always gets the discussion juices flowing, thus we have an important question to ask. But before we get there, some news — to further support the argument in favour of vinyl’s awesomeness, Ars Technica covered an interesting story that ran on local paper site The Tennessean about a vinyl pressing company in Nashville that’s expanding its capacity by adding another warehouse of machinery.

The company has just purchased a 13,200 m2 building for $5.5 million will increase capacity by another half as much again, adding 16 presses to the existing 30 along with plenty more warehouse storage space. Another benefit should be the fact that spreading over two sites reduces the impact should there be some sort of disaster. You might remember the huge disruption to labels caused by a Sony Music warehouse burning down in the UK a few years ago.

One comment on the Ars story caught my eye especially:

“Man, times have sure changed. I used to run an indie hip hop label, and the last vinyl I pressed was in 2001 I think. At the time we used a plant in the Czech Republic, it was the easiest option compared to the US, which was becoming increasingly difficult and expensive (I did press in the US before that). Who would have guessed that all these years later, when I’m thinking of selling off my 1200’s because I just never use them that vinyl would be expanding?”

Just over a decade ago, the only place for a small US record label to get vinyl pressed at a reasonable cost was all the way over in Eastern Europe, quite possibly at the same factory the DJWORX picture disc was produced. Now, The home of music in the US, Nashville, houses one of the bigger pressing factories.

At this point, the discussion over the sound quality of various formats is largely irrelevant as digital downloads take over the world (until something new comes along), but the Jay Millar, Director of Marketing over at the record fabrication company United Record Pressing LLC offered a take on why vinyl is clawing back territory:

“Our belief is that it’s being driven by the rise in digital. People who want something tangible and the best sound quality and experience are going to vinyl as opposed to CDs.”

Look, no-one’s denying that vinyl sales are low compared to other audio format, and that it’s unlikely to make any impact in the grand scheme, but the fact is, there are more people buying vinyl than years gone by. In fact, Mark recently wrote that we collectively bought over six million records in 2013, more than we have since the 80s!

Yet again, we’re clearly seeing an upward trend in vinyl sales, and one of the biggest reasons fans of the medium give for its continued existence is the tactile nature of the record. From the moment you step into a record shop, you are part of a sensual experience. Walking up to the counter, talking to the person behind the counter. Being handed a stack of records. Pulling each one out and listening to them. The cover art. Sticking them on your shelf or in a crate. Flicking through them to find something to listen to. Vinyl is not just about sound. It’s about owning a physical piece of music history, however small.

And neatly tying in with the last story —  United Records is the pressing plant of choice for manufacturing Jack White’s vinyl creations.

[youtube id=”RGZSrvCyExM”]

And just as I was about to wrap this up…

A very interesting documentary hit my feed. ‘Sculpting Sound: The Art of Vinyl Mastering’ is a succinct six minute video highlighting the process and experience of mastering a vinyl record. One of the key points from this is the depressing claim that there are only two companies left in the world that cut records (at 4:20). “Lost art”, indeed!

Now the important question…

Much has been made about the rise, fall, and subsequent resurgence of vinyl. But given that we’ve already shown that it’s not possible to be a DJ playing new music purely on vinyl, this question naturally arises off the back of this story: If there were more DJ-friendly vinyl releases, would you buy them and use them?